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The Standard and Poors 500 index (SPX) closed today at 4410, down 16 points on the day or -0.4%. SPX broke the August 2022 high on Monday and closed the week with a gain of 2.4%. Trading volume ran barely above the 50-day moving average (dma) all week, but spiked higher to 4.0 billion shares today, much higher than the 50 dma at 2.4 billion shares.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, closed today at 13.5%, down from 14.4% on Monday. This low reading for the VIX is surprising, given the sell off this afternoon.

I track the Russell 2000 index with the IWM ETF, which traded sideways this week, closing today at 185.9, down 1.5 points or -0.8%. IWM opened the week at 185.2, for a weekly gain of 0.4%. The small cap stocks of the Russell 2000 have been trading sideways for the last eight trading sessions. These high beta stocks are not leading this market. That is not a good sign.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed at 13,690 today, down 93 points or -0.7% on the day, but rose 2.7% for the week. NASDAQ remains well above its August 2022 high, broken last week. NASDAQ’s trading volume grew steadily all week, spiking today to 8.1 billion shares versus the 50 dma at 4.8 billion.

SPX and NASDAQ have now both broken out above the August highs from last year. Trading volume has run above average on both indices this week and spiked dramatically higher today as the markets sold off during the last three hours of trading. This trading volume spike on a price decline is a classic distribution day, suggesting the large institutional traders were taking their profits.

However, market volatility, as measured by the VIX on the S&P 500, remains at very low levels. The sell off this afternoon suggests some fear on the part of the large players, but they aren’t hedging themselves (which would lead to a higher VIX). Maybe they are already hedged? I closed some positions this morning for nice gains rather than wait another week to add to the profits. This afternoon’s sell off suggests I may have been prudent to take some risk off the table.

My closing remarks are the same as last week. I continue to watch this market very carefully. The party could end quickly.